Feta St. John: made by Greek nuns the ancient whey

Greek feta from St. John’s Monastery outside  Thessaly, aged in its own whey. MICHAEL BRYANT / Staff Photographer

I’ve eaten a lot of feta over the years, but I’ve encountered none in America that taste like the mild and milky white bricks made by the nuns at St. John’s Monastery in southern Greece. That’s because most other fetas are packed in brine, which gives the crumbly white cheese a long shelf life, but also its familiar salty edge. The feta made at this monastery built by St. Damianos in 1520 in the Peloponnese mountains is hand-salted by the nuns — but then packed in the liquid of its own whey. The resulting cheese is more delicately seasoned, and the whey allows the bright lactic tang of fresh sheep’s milk to shine through with exceptional clarity. The cheese has a softer, almost creamy texture that still holds its shape when cubed, and it’s perfect for summer Greek salads, lending a distinctively fresh flavor that manages to taste bright without being sharp or brackish. It’s also mellow enough to be a featured ingredient, smeared over toast with just a little honey and thyme. This is the first time this small-production cheese has ever been sold outside the monastery, let alone imported to the United States, says Di Bruno Bros. manager Hunter Fike. The Philly stores have an American exclusive, and a monthlong sale on St. John’s begins next week. Just in time for summer salad season to hit its feta stride.

— Craig LaBan

Feta St. John, usually $15.99 a pound, will be $14.99 a pound between June 7 and July 5, at all Di Bruno Bros. locations (except Comcast Center). 

 

 

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